Nation Ford’s baseball team celebrates its playoff victory Tuesday night over Hillcrest, 2-0. The Falcons advance to play at JL Mann on Thursday night for a berth in the District Championship game (Photo courtesy of Keith Cooke).

It’s been a trying last couple of weeks for the baseball team at Nation Ford. After an impressive nine-game winning streak, it looked like the sky was the limit for the veteran Falcons.

That’s when the rainy skies hit A.O. Jones. Some key injuries and illnesses grabbed the team and all of a sudden, things weren’t looking so bright. The Falcons dropped a doubleheader to rival Northwestern, and then followed that up with a 1-3 week during Spring Break, including a 4-3 loss on Senior Night to the independent Carolina Royals. The Falcons had very little turnaround time to get themselves healthy again.

On Tuesday night, it looked like they did just that.

Pitcher Jeffery Maidhof continued to show why he is a candidate for Pitcher of the Year in South Carolina. He scattered five hits and threw a complete game shutout over Simpsonville Hillcrest, 2-0, in the first round of the 5A state playoffs. The Rams came into the game ranked fourth in 5A according to high school baseball website MaxPreps. Because of league standings, it was the Falcons that enjoyed the home field advantage last night.

The stadium at Nation Ford enjoyed a packed house on the home side of the field, and that crowd went away happy last night.

Maidhof pitched his way through a couple of jams, including a bases loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning when Rams’ first baseman Matt Parsons singled with two outs. Braden Owens came into pinch run for Parsons and moved to third base on a single from center fielder Deonte Smith. Smith advanced to second on the throw. Next batter was right fielder Wyatt Watts who walked, only Maidhof’s seventh walk all season. The inning ended when Hillcrest catcher Tyler Halloran struck out.

The Falcons only needed the two runs that they scored in the bottom of the third. Shortstop Tyler Causey, who had been sidelined with an illness, singled on a long fly ball to left centerfield, scoring Steven Johnson. Causey’s long ball was confusing to Falcons’ base runners, and as a result, second baseman Xavier Cumbee was tagged out trying to reach home. The next batter, catcher Justin Lehman, hit a single to left field, scoring center fielder Bradley Bott. Although the Falcons could have scored more that inning, the two scores were enough and the Falcons held on to move on.

Nation Ford next plays on Thursday night April 25, 2019 at 7pm at JL Mann in Greenville, who defeated Boiling Springs, 15-5, to advance. The game between the Falcons and the Mann Patriots will be the semifinals in the District 1 playoffs, with the winner advancing to the District Championship game on Monday night at home. Nation Ford won their District Championship for the first time in school history last season. Mann last won a District Championship in 2016, which led to the Upper State Championship and a berth in the State Championship series. The loser of this game will face the winner of Hillcrest and Boiling Springs, who also play Thursday night, on Saturday at the home of either Nation Ford or Mann.

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